The Washington State House of Representatives is expected to approve a gay marriage bill on Wednesday, February 8.

The House Judiciary Committee approved the measure on Monday with a 7 to 5 vote after hearing an hour's worth of testimony from supporters and opponents. One lawmaker abstained from voting. The Democrat-controlled panel fought off amendments which would have put the measure up for a public vote and expanded the bill's religious protections to include private businesses and individuals.

The House is expected to begin debate on the measure at 1PM. Supporters say they have the votes needed for passage. Today's vote comes a week after the Senate approved the bill by a wider margin than expected.

Governor Chris Gregoire introduced the measure and has urged lawmakers to approve it.

Since 2007, Washington has recognized gay couples with domestic partnerships. A 2009 expansion of the law – dubbed “everything but marriage” – gave gay couples all the protections of marriage.

Opponents of Gregoire's plan to make Washington the seventh state to legalize gay marriage have vowed to put the issue before voters in November. However, voters in 2009 rejected an effort to repeal the state's domestic partnerships.

The House vote comes a day after a federal court declared California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in violation of the United States Constitution.